Pentagon Opens Doors to TAPS Families
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2014 More than 175 Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors families gathered at the Pentagon yesterday, where senior leaders welcomed them for an evening of activities and interaction with each of the services.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked the families for their sacrifices as part of the event-packed weekend.
“The TAPS [families] are so special and they’ve given such great sacrifices to this country,” Winnefeld said. “We can give countries money, we can give them armaments, we can give them all kinds of things, but the most precious thing we give to a country is the blood of our sons and daughters.”
After presenting family members with challenge coins as they entered the Pentagon, Work and Winnefeld each noted what a privilege it was to interact with families, especially as the country collectively thinks about the sacrifices of veterans over Memorial Day Weekend.
Separated into five groups, the families visited the Pentagon Memorial, learned hand-to-hand combat from the Marine Corps, listened to the Army buglers, operated underwater demonstrations with the Navy and enjoyed other demonstrations from the Air Force and the Coast Guard.
Attendees such as Karen Eggleston and her daughter Molly, 6, said they visit each year and plan to return next year.
Eggleston’s husband was assigned to Ft. Bragg, N.C., as a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group when he was killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan April 26, 2012.
Afterward, his widow turned to TAPS.
“It is the only thing that has helped me make it through,” Eggleston said about being able to network with other grieving families. “The support of knowing that there [are] other people and they completely get your whole journey is amazing.”
While Molly proclaimed her best Washington meal so far to have been “a cookie,” her mother offered greater insight to their experience here.
“Everybody here respects what we’ve been through and everyone around D.C. stops what they’re doing to just honor us,” she said. “It really makes us feel like our loved ones are not forgotten.”
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleAFPS)